Ron Wellman Press Conference 4-7-10
April 7, 2010
THE MODERATOR: I'd like to introduce the Director of Athletics at Wake Forest University, Mr. Ron Wellman.
RON WELLMAN: First of all, let me thank you for adjusting your schedules to be here today. I know late notification of a press conference can sometimes be problematic, and for you to make the effort to be here is much appreciated.
The purpose of the conference today is to announce that I met with Dino Gaudio this afternoon and informed him that we would not be retaining him as our head basketball coach.
On the surface, that looks like a very controversial and difficult decision, and in fact it was a very difficult decision. When you look at Dino's record, his overall record, his 60 and 31, I believe. His ACC record is over 500. He graduates his players. So it certainly appears to be a decision that was difficult, and I assure you that it was.
The basis of the decision was our late season and post season performance. And we have just not performed up to the level that we expect our programs to perform. Last year at this time, I think, you'll recall that we talked about how we wanted to find a way to improve our late season performances.
And, in fact, we did not meet that goal sufficiently. The last three years, in February and March, we have been 16 and 17. In March we've been 4 and 7. The ACC tournament, we've not had much success there, or any success the last three years and against the lower seeded teams, the teams that we were probably favored to win.
The NCAA tournament, we certainly won or went to the NCAA tournament the last two years, which was great. But, of course, we ran into a No. 13 seed last year with a difficult result, and then this year had a good win against Texas and then the game against Kentucky.
All in all, you look at every conceivable statistic that you can when making an evaluation like this, in comparing the regular season statistics up to February, and then after February there was a significant decline in every statistical category from February on. And even more significant after, in the post season, I should say.
So to rectify that problem, there were a couple of avenues that were possibilities, of course, and that was trying to work with the current staff to rectify the problem, which we certainly did this last year, or to make a change and seek new direction.
Obviously I have chosen the latter approach. Dino has done a very good job in many areas. And as I reflect upon his career at Wake Forest, he's been here for 10 years, and he handled as difficult a situation as could as there was in college basketball three years ago when he replaced Skip Prosser, his good friend and mentor.
I stand by what I said that year, and that is that no one could have done a better job that year of combining honoring Skip and making the team his own. So I am very, very appreciative of the way Dino handled that and very appreciative of his years with us as an assistant coach and our head coach. But now it is time to move on. We will begin searching for a new head coach immediately.
I have no idea how long that will take. It will be totally dependent upon the candidates' availability, what their schedules are, and how my schedule and their schedule matches up. But we will move quickly and this will receive, obviously, my undivided attention until the task is completed.
Q. AD have a list of candidates. I'm assuming you have that list, what are you looking for in a new coach here?
RON WELLMAN: Well, someone who I believe is going to be successful. Yes, there is a list as with any position, and every AD would give you that response. And you don't want to be caught unaware or off guard or unprepared for something like this, or if a coach leaves, that you did not anticipate. So you always want to have that list. We're looking for a coach who will come in, reflect Wake Forest positively. Wake Forest is a unique place, as we all know. And as I've said to you many times, the fit is what's important at Wake Forest. We want somebody who understands Wake Forest, someone who is not going to change Wake Forest, not attempt to change Wake Forest. We are who we are, and we're very happy with whom we are. So we don't want anyone to try to change who we are, but within the parameters of the university, present the and field the very best basketball team possible. And whether that person is a current head coach, that would be my desire, obviously. But I'm not ruling out any possibility at this point.
Q. Will there be any of the staff retained at all?
RON WELLMAN: I have talked with each of the assistant coaches. I talked with Jeff and Rusty and Walt Corbean and have offered them to continue in the interim until a new head coach is hired, and then it would be, of course, up to the new head coach to determine what their future would be. I can recommend those individuals very highly to whomever is going to be our new head coach. Each of them has done a very, very good job in their particular areas. So I'm confident that they will perform admirably during this interim period for the X number of days or weeks, and the head coach will have the opportunity to interview them once he is named.
Q. The season for Wake Forest has been over for a while. Why wait? Why not two weeks ago?
RON WELLMAN: Actually, because I was looking at it and reviewing it and it took a long time to review. This was not a snap decision. It was not a snap judgment. As I reviewed the landscape of college basketball, the candidates in whom I am most interested are still available. None of them have gone anywhere else, so there was no urgency. I wanted to make the best decision possible. And that took time. Obviously, I've been away from campus quite a bit the last four weeks as well. On one hand, that prevented us from making a quicker decision, possibly. On the other hand, it gave me the opportunity to really devote the time to this decision that I felt was necessary.
Q. Will either Jeff or maybe Rusty get consideration for the head job?
RON WELLMAN: We have not talked with them about that. Whether they would be interested in the head position at this time remains to be seen.
Q. Were any of the players involved in this decision, and have they been notified?
RON WELLMAN: They have not been involved. I did not ask their opinion about this, for obvious reasons. You don't want to put a player in a position like that. And I will meet with the team tonight at 6:30. They have been notified by other people in our department. So they are very aware of what has happened this afternoon. But I will meet personally with them at 6:30 tonight.
Q. You mentioned statistics and reviewing them. Was there one that stood out, shooting, rebounding, whatnot?
RON WELLMAN: The wins and losses, of course, were the prominent statistic. We were 1 and 6 in the post season over the last three years. But I looked at scoring. Our scoring in the post season did not match what we did in the regular season. I think in the regular season we averaged 74 points. In the post season we averaged 63, off the top of my head. Free throw shooting percentage was down significantly. Field goal percentage was down significantly. 3 point shooting was down significantly. All of those percentages, on the opposite side of the ball, defensively increased rather significantly for our opposition. I should say, too, that this was not a decision based upon a one year performance. We can put up with a disappointment. We have disappointments in athletics all the time. But there was a pattern here that needed to be addressed, a three year pattern that needed to be addressed. So that is the reason for the decision. It's not that we didn't get enough wins this year. It's not that we didn't do something specific this year, other than late season and post season performances over a three year period of time.
Q. Some might have been speculating that this is a calculated move and there might be more to the story behind the scenes issues. Could you respond to that?
RON WELLMAN: I'll leave the conjecture up to those who want to participate in that. We will base this decision upon the record. And the move that we are making, we believe is a strategic move for the department and for the basketball program.
Q. Can you elaborate on the parties, the other parties who were involved in the decision, and if you received any outside pressure?
RON WELLMAN: Well, you always receive suggestions from people who have my e mail address. But that had nothing to do with the decision. I conferred with the president of the university about this and kept him abreast of what I was thinking over the last few weeks. We spent the last four days together. He went to the Final Four with me, and we had ample opportunity to talk about the direction that I was going at that time. Ultimately, he approved the decision and allowed me to go forward with it.
Q. In light of that, though, were you concerned that the program had soured in some way? Was it just a bad mood? Obviously there was a lot of disgruntled fan base. But were you concerned that it was just headed in the wrong direction?
RON WELLMAN: It's difficult to gauge the emotions of a large fan base so quickly. And I did not attempt to do that. I wanted this decision to be based upon fact. And that was a fact or a set of facts that was not considered. If we start basing decisions upon the mood of a large group of people, that puts our enterprise, I believe, in a precarious position. And I'm not saying that some don't do that and they do it very successfully. I have difficulty with that personally. So I just look at the performance of the team, the direction of the program, the patterns that exist within that program and try to make the very best decision that I possibly can.
Q. Was Dino surprised when you told him?
RON WELLMAN: Yes. He handled it as professionally as anyone could ever handle it. He was very surprised by it. He asked for the reasons for the decision. He asked those questions very professionally. I gave him those answers. There were long moments of silence because he was surprised and didn't know what to ask next. But, ultimately, when he departed, he thanked me for the opportunity. And I think that says something about Dino Gaudio.
Q. Did the turnover in staff over the last couple of years have any consideration in this? And also, how big a factor is the five man recruiting class, and how would that affect possibly the timetable of hiring a new coach?
RON WELLMAN: Well, we're not going to rush into hiring a new coach to try to salvage a recruit or two or whatever it might be. We'll be in continual contact with the recruit as we will be in continual contact with the players to let them know the direction that we are going and our aspirations for the program. So those individuals, those recruits that have signed with us have made a commitment to Wake Forest. We have made a commitment to them. We will contact them immediately through the assistant coaches and administrators to be encouraging to them and to verbalize our goals for the program. The assistant coaching situation assistant coaches make decisions that are in their best interests. And I'm supportive of that. If an assistant coach wants to move in a different direction for whatever reason, he deserves the opportunity to do so. I knew that Dave and Pat, I think those are probably the two you're talking about, were very interested in those other positions early on. Well before they made that final decision. And it was for good reason that they were pursuing those decisions.
Q. How do you reconcile those who would struggle to, six months ago you extended Dino's contract and now he's being released from it. How do you reconcile those two chains of thought?
RON WELLMAN: Six months ago I was convinced that we were going to perform better at the end of the season. That did not happen. So a change has been made. I don't know that I can reconcile that. And so we just have to move on from here. And I don't know that any answer that I can give to those individuals who want that to be reconciled will be satisfactory to them.
Q. What would it have taken in your eyes for this season not to have been a disappointment? And moving forward, what are specifically some of the criteria that you will ask of whoever comes in and is hired next in terms of ACC titles or NCAA tournament victories?
RON WELLMAN: We're working on our strategic plan right now and identifying all of those things. But basically we want a team that continues to improve. We want a team that is peaking at the right time of the year. In college basketball now, the right time of the year is in late February, early March, and through the NCAA tournament. We've got to have a team that is at its peak performance at that time. We play in what I very biasly believe is the best basketball conference in the country. And if we aren't at peak performance, if any team in this conference is not peaking at the right time, you're not going to do well in the post season. That was evident this year. I think that the team that won the national championship, their moniker this year is that they improved throughout the year, and that's why they were able to achieve what they did in the post season.
Q. What would you have viewed?
RON WELLMAN: Exactly that, a continuation of improvement throughout the year, rather than a decline at the end of the year, a continuation of the improvement. And beating the teams that we should beat, competitively at that time of the year during tournament play.
Q. With Dino's ties to Prosser, are you looking to retain that tradition and ties to the school and similar coaching styles, or are you looking to go a totally different direction?
RON WELLMAN: I am not determining what type of coaching style we want. I assume you're talking about offense/defense and all that. The coach has to evaluate that himself. I am not one to say that you need to run this offense or you need to run that defense. We're all in trouble if I do that. So the coach has complete latitude as to the style of play that he wants to use for his team. A good coach and I think you see it from the great coaches; they adjust. You look at the great programs, and one year they're doing something one way defensively or offensively and there are adjustments made the next year depending upon the personnel that they have available to them. Coaches great coaches exploit the strengths of their players, rather than exposing their weaknesses, they exploit those strengths.
Q. You spoke earlier about the timetable of the decision and evaluating the landscape of college basketball. When you see teams like a Butler, a Northern Iowa, Cornell with on paper less talent than a school like Wake Forest and the success they've had versus the success we've had in the NCAA tournament, did that factor at all in this decision?
RON WELLMAN: I would take issue with the personnel at a couple of those schools. I had the opportunity the last couple of weeks to watch Cornell play three games and Butler play two games. They have good personnel. They have outstanding personnel. And I think that's the beauty of college basketball today. The playing field has been leveled a great deal because of those teams that have done very well. Northern Iowa did very well. I didn't see them personally, but on TV they look like they had very good personnel as well. So I don't know that those teams overachieved all that much. Maybe when you look at the history of their program you could say that they did. But when I look at the teams that they were fielding this year, I don't know that anyone should have been shocked with Butler's performance or Northern Iowa or Cornell. Those were very good basketball teams.
Q. Do you think that Dino understood your urgency with the end season results? I had a conversation on a conference call with him six months ago and he was still defending how last year ended. Do you really think he understood that was ultimately what he was going to be judged on?
RON WELLMAN: I'm not sure. Based upon that comment, I'm not sure. You would have to ask Dino that.
Q. Ron, regardless what the other five recruits coming in decide to do eventually, if I'm not mistaken, the active period for recruiting starts today where it's been a dead period. So do you feel comfortable with the assistants going forward with that and dealing with the recruits that have been recruited up to now?
RON WELLMAN: Yes. I have great confidence in the three gentlemen I mentioned: Jeff, Rusty and Walt, and their ability to present our program in a very positive light, the future of the program in a very positive manner and reflect upon Wake Forest the way we want the university positioned with those recruits. And our message to the recruits is: Be patient. Don't do something in a peak emotional moment that you would regret later on. Let us hire the new coach. Meet with the new coach and see where this might go.
Q. As you watch these last three seasons kind of wash ashore the way they did, what is your impression of what happened? Could you get a feel for it? Were there common denominators other than just the results? I mean, what was your feel?
RON WELLMAN: Well, you can talk about the technical aspect of it, and what adjustments we were making. I don't know that any of us are capable of doing that. The coaches know the players. The coaches know the opponents. They spend hours upon hours reviewing the opponent and trying to determine how to best attack and beat that opponent. I am not in a position to evaluate whether we should have run a zone versus a man to man. None of us are. We're fans, and we have those feelings and we like to talk about it. And it's great conversation and it can be very controversial, and that adds to the luster of the conversation. But in reality, none of us spend as much time with the players. None of us spend as much time evaluating the opponents. None of us have the expertise that they do. So I have not gone there. I look at results. And I base the decision upon the results that have been produced. And for me to try to base the decision upon anything else would be inappropriate on my part, I believe.
Q. If you would, talk a little bit about what factor money played in your head if at all. I guess those are the times when Dino was under contract for four more years, I know you won't talk specific dollar amounts, but was buying one coach out and hiring another coach, was that a factor at all in your decision?
RON WELLMAN: Well, it's considered, sure. It's looked at. It's reviewed, but obviously it's something that did not prevent us from doing, making a decision that I felt needed to be made.
Q. Speaking of the contract extension that Coach Gaudio received prior to this season, comparing your reasons for letting him go now to the reasons you gave him that extension then, what changed from the time he got that extension to where we sit today?
RON WELLMAN: Well, the end of the season, once again, and the performance of the team in the post season as well as the end of the season. And it simply boiled down to that.
Q. What's Coach Corbean's status right now? Has he been elevated to full time assistant? Is he still director of basketball operations? And how will that affect his ability to help out with recruiting?
RON WELLMAN: Walt is in as difficult a position as anyone. And I told him that today. On one hand he gets a promotion or recommended for a promotion to become an assistant coach and the next day the staff is released. One day he realizes a goal that he has had when he came here. The next day that goal blows up right in front of him. We are going to look at that from a compliance standpoint and his ability to contact recruits and be interactive with the recruits on a personal basis from a compliance standpoint. And we have not done that yet. Because nothing has been approved at this point. But there is an assistant's position open. So if we wanted to move him to that position, we could certainly do that.
Q. Since there was just an extension done recently, will the contract be honored through the time of the extension?
RON WELLMAN: Well, there is a buy out clause in the contract, and that will be honored, most definitely.